Ukraine Holds Round Table Talks Without Pro-Russians

Ukraine Holds Round Table Talks Without Pro-Russians

Ukrainian politicians, religious leaders, lawmakers and regional officials gathered in Kyiv to address the situation in east Ukraine with pro-Russian forces. Even though these forces are the cause of trouble, none of them were invited to discuss their grievances with the new Ukraine government.

According to the Associated Press:

In his opening remarks, acting President Oleksandr Turchynov said authorities were “ready for a dialogue” but insisted they will not talk to the separatists who have seized buildings and fought government troops across eastern Ukraine.

On May 11, pro-Russians in Donetsk and Luhansk held a hastily put together referendum to make the “Donetsk People’s Republic” official. The next day, Denis Pushilin, self-proclaimed leader of the DPR, announced over 90% of the people voted to form DPR. Just a few hours later, Pushilin asked Moscow to allow DPR to join the Russian Federation. Russia has not responded.

These talks open the day after pro-Russians opened fire on Ukrainian paratroopers near Kramatorsk. Seven soldiers were killed and eight were injured. One rebel also died. The paratroopers were transporting ammunition when a group of pro-Russians attacked them with automatic weapons and grenade launchers. Attacks like this are another reason Kyiv did not invite the pro-Russians.

According to Reuters:

“We are ready for talks with everyone who has legitimate political goals and is ready to pursue them by legal means, with those who do not have blood on their hands,” acting President Oleksander Turchinov and Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said in a joint statement.

Turchynov started the talks with a peace plan from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The plan supposedly allows a way for both sides to hold constructive talks before Ukraine’s presidential elections on May 25 but puts Kyiv in charge of all talks. There were no specific details of the plan available. Turchynov also said the government will prosecute any person who breaks the law:

“Let’s have a dialogue, let’s discuss specific proposals,” Turchynov said, “But those armed people who are trying to wage a war on their own country, those who are with arms in their hands trying to dictate their will, or rather the will of another country, we will use legal procedures against them and they will face justice.”

Germany said the round table “was a step in the right direction, whether the pro-Russian separatists were invited or not.” The pro-Russians said they never received an invitation to the talks; “If the authorities in Kiev want a dialogue, they must come here. If we go to Kiev, they will arrest us,” Pushilin reportedly said.